Distiller Loch Lomond sold in major deal backed by Asian firm

Loch Lomond is considered to be one of Scotlands most historic whisky producers. Picture: Nick Mailer
Loch Lomond is considered to be one of Scotlands most historic whisky producers. Picture: Nick Mailer
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Loch Lomond, the producer of Glen’s Vodka, Glen Scotia whisky and Ben Lomond gin, has changed hands in a deal with a Hong Kong-headquartered investment firm reported to be worth as much as $500 million (£393m).

The management team at the Scottish distiller has partnered with Asia-based investment manager Hillhouse ­Capital to acquire Loch Lomond Group from Exponent Private Equity.

The value of the deal for one of Scotland’s most historic whisky producers has not been disclosed, although sources played down the $500m figure reported by one news source.

The buy-out follows a five-year transformation programme by private equity firm Exponent to expand the business internationally. The move is expected to drive an expansion of its brands across Asia, one of the world’s fastest-growing whisky markets.

Loch Lomond, which employs more than 200 people, can trace its roots back to 1842 when Gabriel Bulloch became involved in Scotch wholesaling. The business remained owned by the Bulloch family until it was bought by Exponent in 2014 for an undisclosed sum.

It has since invested heavily in driving its global distribution platform and now generates 70 per cent of its revenue from more than 100 international markets, versus less than 10 per cent at the time of being family-owned.

The company’s production spans sites across Scotland. It operates its Loch Lomond malt and grain distilleries at Alexandria in Dunbartonshire, Glen Scotia distillery in Campbeltown, Argyll, and has its own bottling plant in Catrine, Ayrshire.

It saw sales jump 4.6 per cent to £52.9m in the year to September 2018, though it posted a £9.6m loss in the period.

Loch Lomond chief executive Colin Matthews said: “Over the past five years we are proud to have transformed the Loch Lomond Group into a premium international spirits business with a strong focus on innovation and a portfolio of award-winning brands.

“We believe now is the right time to move forward into the next stage of our growth strategy as we look to innovate further, extend our portfolio of brands and continue to expand our international presence, particularly in Asia where Hillhouse has significant experience.”

Wei Cao, partner at Hillhouse Capital, said: “Loch Lomond’s rich heritage in Scotch whisky gives the business a distinct advantage as they look to build on their success across the world, especially in the increasingly discerning Asian spirits market.

“Hillhouse’s experienced operational team will work closely with Loch Lomond’s management to help it offer a premium consumer experience in international markets through channels like e-commerce and new retail.”